Nationally, the use of Class A drugs is now at the highest level since 1996. Last year, there were 453 recorded drug offences in the Wallasey constituency. That was 119 more incidents than the year before.
All this makes for depressing reading and, with the Government’s confused messages on drugs such as cannabis, I was keen to find out what is happening ‘on the ground’. Government targets are one thing; reality, as we know with Labour, is often quite another.
Merseyside Police has been running ‘Operation Hawk’ to tackle the rise in drugs; more than 500 people have been arrested, 600 warrants executed and around £7 million of drugs seized.
And, last month, I attended a raid by Merseyside Police on a pub in Wallasey. Along with 70 police officers and sniffer dogs, I saw how drugs are widespread, often among people who have no outward signs of addiction (yet), and who see drugs as an essential part of a good night out.
As well as several arrests and drug seizures, the Council’s licensing staff were also present to enforce breaches of the license.
But it’s not enough just to tackle the supply, we also need to stem the demand for drugs. That’s why I have also visited two local organisations that deal with the consequences of addiction.
‘Churches Against Solvent Misuse’ is based in the heart of the constituency. CASM visits schools and youth groups and, over the course of a year, come into contact with around 12,000 young people. This is a brilliant local organisation that is well beneath the radar of the ‘state’ but deals with the consequences of poor Government policy. The organisation lives on a shoe string and relies on fundraising locally, including, most recently, a very enjoyable strawberry tea!
My other visit was to ARCH Initiatives, a registered charity that provides a range of services across Merseyside, Halton, Warrington and Cheshire for people affected by drugs and alcohol. They provide services that are designed to improve the quality of life for those who are affected by all types of substance misuse. The services provided by ARCH range from open access services that serve as a first point of contact for those seeking assistance with addiction problems, through structured day care, counselling, family services, criminal justice services, training schemes and aftercare. The agency has a 14-bedded Residential Treatment Centre based in Birkenhead that offers detoxification or stabilisation for both drugs and alcohol.